If you are considering a cattle dog as a pet, here are some characteristics which may help you make an informed decision as to whether the Australian Cattle Dog is right for you.
The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as a Blue Heeler or Red Heeler, is both an extremely tough and loyal dog. One must always keep in mind that these dogs were specifically bred for the rigorous job of herding cattle across vast expanses of the Australian outback. This breeding mix of the Blue Smooth Highland Collie and the wild Dingo dog resulted in an exceptional, athletic working dog of convincing stamina and intelligence. Their short-hair coats are smooth with built in rain resistance and insulation for extreme hot and cold temperatures. Heelers come in two colors: the red, white and tan marled mix belongs to the Red Heeler while the blue gray, tan and white defines the Blue Heeler. One of their most unique physical traits is the variety of their color markings which are often very striking, especially in the Blue Heeler. In the same vein as Calico cats with their numerous color combinations, Heelers are painted with an endless assortment of black and white markings which give them a distinguished appearance. No two heelers are the same. Some may have an entire black mask covering their face while others will sport a black patch over one eye. These dogs are without a doubt some of the most beautiful and unusual looking dogs of all the dog breeds.
If you are looking for a low maintenance dog, you will need to keep looking. Heelers are bred with a job to do, and thus demand high physical activity to keep them satisfied. If they are not herding cattle, they will be herding you around the house and into the shower and pool. This herding is often accompanied by nipping at your heels. This can be a difficult, inbred instinct to curb, but with proper training their nipping can be managed. They are eager to learn while their keen intelligence allows them to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Meeting their requirements for daily physical activity will significantly lessen their natural herding tendencies. A daily regime of frisbee, ball catch, swimming, walking, hiking or running is a must.
If you are looking for a dedicated, devoted canine companion, look no further. Heelers offer a deep bond and an enduring friendship. They desire to be by your side at all times and will stick to you like velcro. They will follow you everywhere. Even in a household of numerous family members, Heelers will desire to have only one master to whom they give their loyalty and devotion. With a propensity for a 15 year life span, you can enjoy a long friendship.
Perhaps one of the most common questions regarding the Australian Cattle Dog as a pet pertains to their performance around children. Heelers are apt to find delight in herding small children, and their nipping inclinations must be discouraged so as not to alarm and scare children. If you introduce a Heeler puppy into a family with small children, you will need to exercise caution and diligence in training your Heeler pup not to nip. But once your Heeler comes to know all the family members, you will have a protective and loyal pet.
It is most important from the beginning to well socialize your Heeler puppy with other dogs. In many ways, Heelers are loners as well as having a more recent wild dog ancestry compared to other domesticated dog breeds. Any display of aggressive behavior indicates a lack of good socialization. Heelers can be fiercely protective and territorial, but with the right training you can direct their impulses towards appropriate circumstances. Their nipping trait will be stronger in some Heelers than others depending on their ancestry. If their parents were working cattle dogs, their herding instincts will be more present.
The Australian Cattle Dog is happiest in wide open spaces with room to run and play. This is not a suitable dog for city nor apartment living. A happy Heeler requires your energy and full participation in giving it a job to do. This robust, active dog is nonetheless highly adaptive to its environment, and will capture your heart with its sweet demeanor and devoted nature.